Rick Barnes has led the Texas Longhorns to two Elite Eights (2006, 2008) and one Final Four (2003). But all of that feels like a lifetime ago for many UT fans. They enter the 2011 NCAA Tournament Bracket a little lower than many thought they would be a few weeks ago. Now comes the time to prove themselves all over again when they take on the 13-seed Oakland Grizzlies at 12:15 p.m. on Friday, televised on CBS. The 2011 NCAA Tournament schedule is full of interesting games and upset possibilities and this game covers both those categories.
Texas entered the 2010-11 season as a team in transition, after losing their top three scorers – Damion James, Dexter Pittman and Avery Bradley – to the NBA, Justin Mason to graduation, and underclassmen Varez Ward and Shawn Williams to premature exits after injury problems. Highly regarded recruits Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph arrived to take some of the load, while seniors Gary Johnson and Dogus Balbay have assumed team leadership roles.
Oakland landed a spot on the NCAA Tournament bracket. Oakland won the Summit League tournament by beating Oral Roberts, 90-76, to clinch its ticket to the Big Dance. The Grizzlies were dominant in the Summit League tourney, winning three games by a combined 50 points. They went through the regular season with a 17-1 in-conference record and finished with an overall record of 25-9. Last year, head coach Greg Kampe led the Grizzlies to the NCAA tournament as a 14-seed and the Grizzlies lost to Pittsburgh in the first round.
Star Watch: Jordan Hamilton, the Texas sophomore, won three Big 12 player-of-the-week awards, averaging 18.6 and pulling down 7.7 boards per game while shooting 40 percent from behind the arc. He is a streak shooter, particularly from three-point territory, and has a knack for taking over games when he gets hot.
Prediction: This one feels like an upset-special but Texas should be able to survive a close class with a 70-65 win that pushes them into the next round.
Need help picking your bracket? Check out SB Nation's full 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket predictions, picking every game of March Madness, or our region by region breakdowns for the East Region, West Region, Southeast Region, and Southwest Region.
Did your team miss the 2011 NCAA Tournament? We have you covered: check out the 2011 NIT bracket.